Some possible ways to incorporate two spinners into the England test team.
This post is inspired by a post that appeared this morning on Toby’s Sporting Views. He was writing about an excellent bowling performance by Somerset’s spinners against Nottinghamshire on day two of their match, and I am looking specifically at an aspect he raised relating to this, namely two spinners playing for England in the Ashes tests this summer.
I am basing all my possible XIs around five specialist batters with Ben Foakes at six and wearing the gloves. The other fixed position, since he is indispensable in test cricket at present is James Anderson at no 11 and as one of new ball bowlers. Therefore the positions up for dispute are 7, 8, 9 and 10, which will be filled by two spinners and two quicks. Thus form my purposes each permutation will involve four cricketers, as I need not mention the others. Neither Adil Rashid nor Moeen Alihave done enough with the ball of late to merit consideration, and Lancashire’s Matthew Parkinson while promising is not as yet ready for elevation, so the two spinners would be Leach and Bess, becoming a latter day Lock and Laker.
1: THE PURE ENGLISH
In so far as such a line-up can be typical English this one is. It features Lewis Gregoryat number 7, Sam Curranat number 8 and sharing the new ball with James Anderson, with Bess and Leach the two spinners at nos 9 and 10.
2: EXTRA PACE I
This one dispenses with Curran, and brings in either Jofra Archer or Mark Wood to bowl outright fast, sharing the new ball with Anderson.
3: EXTRA PACE II
This one dispenses with Gregory, having Curran move up to seven and playing one of Archer or Wood along with the two spinners and Anderson. This is more of a gamble as it misses out on Gregory’s batting, which is better than that of any of the others.
4: THE OUTRIGHT GAMBLE
This one dispenses with both Curran and Gregory, and brings in both of the super-speedsters Wood and Archer, one of whom would perforce come on first change. This would likely mean Archer at no 7, Bess at no 8, Leach no 9, Wood no 10 and Anderson no 11, which is where the gamble is – there is no one who can really be called an all-rounder here, just five bowlers.
5: ANOTHER GAMBLE
My final possibility features picking Ben Stokes as a front-line batter and fill-in pacer, and having only four top-line bowlers, Curran, Bess, Leach and Anderson. If one of Curran or Anderson were to break down this side would then be using Stokes as a new-ball bowler, which makes it a very high risk strategy.
Overall I would like one out and out ‘blitzman’ bowler in the team, and picking only two top line pacers for a test match is too rich even for my blood, so with all respect to Sam Curran I am going for Extra Pace I as my bowling combo. Injuries not intervening a possible line-up for match 1 if I was doing the selecting would be:
Continuing my “100 cricketers” series with the allrounders from the seventh XI. Also features a few links and as usual some of my photographs.
Welcome to the latest addition to my “100 cricketers” series, which features the allrounders from my seventh XI. The introductory post to the whole series can be seen here, the post in which I introduce the seventh XI here, and the most recent post in the series here. Before getting into the main business of this post there is a bit of news.
SAM CURRAN DESTROYS DELHI CAPITALS
Many eyebrows were raised when young Surrey and England all-rounder Sam Curran fetched a seven figure sum in the IPL auction. Yesterday for Kings XI Punjab Curran who had already scored 20 off 10 balls opening the batting took 4-11 including a hat-trick which settled the match. He had bowled one over for seven when he was brought back into the attack in the closing stages. The Delhi Capitals had looked to be cruising home, but in a collapse to rival anything from 1990s England at their worst lost their last seven wickets for just eight runs. Curran benefitted from old fashioned straight, full bowling – the batters missed and he hit the stumps. A full report can be read here. Now to the main business of the post.
88 test matches, 3,807 runs at 37.69 and 362 wickets at 22.81, and 175 ODIs which yielded 3,709 runs at 33.41 and 182 wickets at 26.61. He finished his career well before the launch of T20, but there can be little doubt that as an attacking bat and genuinely fast bowler he would have been a success at that form of the game as well. In 1992 he captained his country to World Cup success. This and many other successes as captain have earned him the captaincy of this XI. Captaincy sometimes adversely affects the performance of players, but this was not the case for Imran, who produced some of his finest efforts while captaining. He is a worthy captain of this XI and has an excellent back up in Heather Knight, who I named as vice-captain.
90 test matches, 4,876 runs at 38.09, 256 catches and 38 stumpings. 341 ODI appearances yielded 10,500 runs at 50.72, 314 catches and 120 stumpings. 98 T20Is produced 1714 runs at 37.60, 57 catches and 34 stumpings. The figures show that he was an outstanding wicketkeeping allrounder. The successes in limited overs cricket show that he played an attacking brand of cricket. The fact that six of his nine first class hundreds, including his best of 224, came in test matches show that he relished the big occasion. With him behind the sticks the bowlers (Imran and the four players you will see in my next post in this series, which will also introduce the eigth XI) can be confident that their efforts will not go to waste.
PHOTOGRAPHS AND LINKS
As well as my standard sign off I have some links to share:
Final thoughts on the just concluded England v India test series.
Jimmy Anderson just a few minutes ago rattled the stumps of Mohammad Shami to finish the England versus India series and simulataneously move ahead of Glenn McGrath and test wicket taking list to become the all time leading wicket taker among seamers. He still possibly has enough juice left to get past wrist spinner Anil Kumble (619) into third place overall but I suspect that the tallies of Warne (708) and Muralitharan (800) are too far distant for him. In the rest of this post I will summarise the series from my perspective.
MATCH BY MATCH THROUGH THE SERIES
Englandcame into this series off the back of a poor recent run in test matches (obliterated in Australia, a clear second best in New Zealand and an unconvincing drawn home series against Pakistan) but a lot of success in ODIs, which national selector Ed Smith decided to channel by means of the selections of Buttler and Rashid. India mean time were ranked no 1, a good margin clear of the rest.
MATCH 1: EDGBASTON
England led by 13 runs on first innings, which looked like meaning precisely nothing when they then began their second innings by slumping to 87-7. However, for the first but not last time in the series, India proved unable to complete the job, baulked on this occasion by Sam Curran’s first major contribution, and England eventually left India 194 to chase, which proved to be more than they could handle.
MATCH 2: LORD’S
From the moment India were all out for 107 in their first innings the fate of this match was pretty much settled. At 130-5 England were making heavy weather of their response but a maiden test century from Chris Woakes and 96 from Jonny Bairstow put the game well and truly out of India’s reach and in the event they collapsed a second time to lose by an innings and 159 runs.
MATCH 3: TRENT BRIDGE
This match was settled in the space of an hour and a half on the second day, when England facing an Indian first innings of 329 slumped from 54-0 to 128-9. Even then the last apir cobbled together 33 to reduce the deficit, but the damage had been done, and India ran out comfortable and deserving winners
MATCH 4: THE AGEAS BOWL
When England were 86-6 after winning the toss and batting it looked like the final match would be a decider. However, with Sam Curran playing a second fine innings to rescue a dreadful start England reached 246. India took a small first innings lead, but England batted better second time around and India never threatened to get close in the fourth innings. England had sealed the series with a match to spare.
MATCH 5: THE OVAL
England were playing for pride and a bit of history in this match. After Jennings had fallen cheaply to the surprise of precisely no one who had been following the series Cook and Moeen Ali looked to have stabilised things, but then a clatter of wickets reduced England to 181-7. Buttler and Rashid made it through the the close at 198-7. When Rashid was dismissed early on the second day to make it 214-8 India seemed to be in the box seat. Then in what had become a recurring theme of the series India failed to finish what they had started. Kohli, one the three best batters currently eligible for test cricket (alongside Root and Kane Williamson of New Zealand), is also one of its worst ever captains, and here he was concentrating so much on trying to prevent Buttler from getting the strike that he seemed to forget about taking wickets with the result that England’s total mushroomed to 332. India in their own first innings staged a late order revival to reduce what had looke like being a three figure deficit to a mere 40. After Jennings had gone cheaply and Moeen Ali had also not done very much Cook in his final test innings and Root joined forces. This was the partnership that placed England’s boot firmly on India’s throat, as both completed hundreds, Cook in the process becoming test cricket’s all time most prolific left hander. Both lost their wickets in successive balls, and then after a bit of bat throwing by those lower in the order England declared setting India 464 to win.
Anderson took two wickets with the new ball to draw level with McGrath, while Kohli managed to complete his series without once falling to Anderson (by instead being done first ball by Stuart Broad), at which point India were 2-3 and the 4-1 outcome looked nailed on. A thunderous partnership on the final day between Lokesh Rahul and Rishabh Pant who both made centuries (Pant’s, his first in test cricket, could almost be described as a Gilchristian effort) but England broke through, and although for a long time it looked like India might escape with a draw the prospect of defeat never really loomed. Sam Curran took the eighth and ninth wickets with the second new ball (the latter of them being Jadeja, leaving nos 10 and 11, both out and out rabbits – indeed Bumrah at no 11 may even merit the term ferret). Bumrah managed to survive the last two balls of a Curran over, which meant that Anderson had a full over at two out and out tailenders in which to make history. With the third ball of said over Anderson did the trick as mentioned in the introduction.
Curran, who by taking his late wickets here had become only the second person to record 250 runs and 10 wickets in a test series before reaching the age of 21 (the other was chap by the name of Kapil Dev who may be familiar to some of you!) was rewarded for his all-round endeavours by being named England player of the series, while scores of 71 and 147 in his international swansong saw Cook named player of the match.
This was a truly extraordinary match, leaving me to ask a question: William Shakespeare did you secretly emerge from the grave to script this?!
4-1 – FAIR OR HARSH ON INDIA?
I have written about this before (see here), but I am now going to dot the is and cross the ts. Yes, as well as their big win at Trent Bridge India had good chances in three of the other matches, including the one just concluded, but the simple fact is that far too often they could press home the advantage when they had it, and every time they had an opportunity to close out a match England did so. Therefore, I say that 4-1 is a fair reflection of the series. However, not all in the England garden is rosy – the departure of Cook and the repeated failures of Jennings mean that England need a new opening pair, and have seven test matches before the arrival in town of the oldest enemy, the Aussies, for that pair to establish themselves. Also, given the reluctance of Root to bat there and the fact that Ali while adequate seems to morph into a darker skinned version of Chris Tavare when he bats there England also have problems filling the number three slot. This uncertainty at the top has been reflected in a series of poor starts to the England innings, most of which, save at Trent Bridge, were turned around by the middle and lower orders into something at least respectable.
A few from James and Sons collector’s auction on September 26, which is now ready for viewing online.
Cricket, in the course of which I make a very radical suggestion for dealing with England’s top order woes, and a few other things, including Maths and Public TGransport.
As well as some stuff about the state of play in the current England vs India series I have a couple of mathematical problems for you and some of my own photographs at the end.
ENGLAND’S DREADFUL START
England won the toss yesterday morning before the fourth test match of the five match series against India at the Ageas Bowl, Botley Southampton. This was the last thing they managed to do right for some considerable time. At last, with the scoreboard reading a barely credible 86-6, Sam Curran, inexplicably dropped from the last test match and now returning to the fray, emerged from the pavilion. Much of the carnage was more due to good Indian bowling than bad batting, although Jennings (already on borrowed time for my money) will not want to see replays of his LBW (however good a piece of bowling it may have been padding up to one which would have uprooted the middle stump otherwise never looks good). Fortunately England’s tail managed to produce a diplodocid (see picture at end of this paragraph) proportion of the innings. Curran, making the ridiculous decision to drop him from the previous game look positively ludicrous, racked up 78 before he was last out, the total hvaing reached a semi-respectable 246.
India are currently 135-2 in response. Only once in test match history has a side come back from 0-2 down to take a five match series, in 1936-7 when Australia’s comeback was fuelled by scores of 270, 212 and 169 from Don Bradman in the course of those last three matches. In 1894-5 Australia levelled the series at 2-2 after being 0-2 down but Andrew Stoddart’s England rallied to win the decider.
England’s continuing top-order woes need to be addressed if they are to avoid surrendering a series on which they seemed nto so long ago to have a vice-like grip. Rory Burns must come into the side in place of Jennings. I would also bring Pope back but place him lower in the order. brief interjection – BIG NEWS – Kohli Is Out! Also, thinking about the need for top order runs I now tender a suggestion far more radical than Rory Burns – there is one England opener who has making stacks of runs all over the place of late – the one and only Tammy Beaumont! The way they have performed thus far none of the current top order are entitled to object to that suggestion.
Yes going with two new openers would be a colossal gamble, but they could scarcely fare much worse than Cook and Jennings have in this series.
A COUPLE OF MATHEMATICAL TEASERS
Both of these, from my usual source, are very easy problems which have tripped a number of solvers up. I give them in the reverse order to which they appeared:
HERITAGE OPEN DAY
Heritage Open Day this year is Sunday September 16th. There will be some 60 sites open in the King’s Lynn area, and if you there on the day do make sure you visit. If you happen to visit the cellars at the Bank House between 12 noon and 2PM I will be one of the volunteers you encounter.
TWO STORIES OF BRITISH PUBLIC TRANSPORT DAFTNESS
I start this section with the more minor but also more personal of these stories. Today I made my travel arrangements to Sheffield for a cousin’s wedding. I checked bookings from King’s Lynn to Sheffield, and the cheapest ticket would have cost me £68.20. Knowing that a ‘plan B’ was available I then checked out bookings from Peterborough to Sheffield and lo and behold up came a ticket for just £38.50, which when the two bus tickets on the ExCel are added in amounts to £51 all up. In other words to have travelled by train from King’s Lynn all the way to Sheffield would have cost me 33% more than the combined bus/ train route I am actually taking. Now of course not everyone booking this journey would have known of the alternative, and I wonder how many people have been swindled in this.
My second story of public transport daftness is that The Elizabeth Line (aka Crossrail) will not now be coming into service until nearly a whole year later than planned (more here).
The pictures here are of items I purchased at our auction on Wednesday (it was reasonably successful, with a few big sales, and a lot of items finding buyers).
An account of the first three matches of the test series between England and India plus some photographs
I have not written about the goings on in the current England versus India Test series as yet, because I have been busy writing about other stuff. This post repairs the omission.
MATCH 1 AT EDGBASTON
This was a nail-biter of a game, with fortunes swinging constantly as it progressed. When India were 115-6 in response to England’s 287 it looked like the home side were firmly in the driving seat, but Virat Kohli marshalled the lower order to such purpose that India trailed by only 13 on first innings. When England then slumped to 87-7 in their second innings it looked settled in India’s favour, but Sam Curran played a fine innings to give England a target of 194 to defend. England took wickets consistently, but not until Kohli was finally dislodged by a Ben Stokes yorker that trapped him plumb in front to make it 141-7, leaving nos 8, 9, 10 and 11 needing to cobble together a further 53 did the home side actually look favourites. They managed only 20 of those runs, and England were one up in the series. Curran was deservedly named player of the match (Kohli’s contribution of 149 and 51 was not enough to save his side from defeat, so it would have been wrong for him have got the award).
SECOND TEST MATCH AT LORD’S
India batted first in very difficult conditions. Nevertheless, and magnificently as England’s seamers bowled in conditions made to measure for them, a tally of 107 all out looked pretty definitively inadequate. When England were 131-5 themselves it looked less so, but a monster partnership between Bairstow and Woakes (in in place of the unavailable Stokes) effectively settled the outcome of the match. Woakes completed his maiden test century, being 137 not out when England declared, while Bairstow missed adding to his own tally of such scores by a mere four. India collapsed again (130 all out this time) and England were 2-0 up in the series. Anderson became the first bowler to take 100 test wickets at Lord’s in the course of this game, and only the second ever to 100 at a single venue anywhere (the first, Muttiah Muralitharan, did so at no fewer than three different venues). Woakes’ century meant that joined the select list of cricketers to feature on batting and bowling honours boards at Lord’s (Ian Botham is there, and among overseas cricketers Keith Miller is the sole person on both boards).
THE THIRD TEST AT TRENT BRIDGE
Before this match got underway England perpetrated a blunder, setting the scene for four and little bit days in which such things would become routine, by dropping Sam Curran after two matches in which he performed excellently to make way for Ben Stokes, now cleared of all criminal charges, to return to the squad. I personally would not have selected Stokes at all, but even had a gun at the head proposition forced me to do so nothing would have induced to me to drop Curran (yeah, pull that trigger if dropping Curran is the price to pay for you not doing so!).
Perhaps feeling after the first two matches that they could bowl India out on anything England put them in after winning the toss. India tallied 329, helped by some butter-fingered English fielding. The match was won and lost in the space of an hour and a half on day two when England being 54-0 in reply to 329 became England 128-9 in reply to 329. Buttler and Anderson got the final England first innings total up to 161. In their second innings India reached 352-7 before declaring leaving England two days and a mini-session to negotiate or 521 to score. Kohli had his second century of the series, having misssed out by three in the first innings. Cook and Jennings did the first part of their mammoth task, getting England to the close without losing a wicket. Both then fell early on day four, and two more quick wickets followed, at which point Buttler and Stokes joined forces. Their partnership at least showed some belated fight, and Buttler completed his maiden test hundred, while Stokes batted for a long time in largely defensive manner. Another clatter of wickets followed the breaking of the partnership and it was only some bloody-mindedness on the part of Rashid and Anderson (who had earlier in the game become only the second bowler to record 100 wickets in test matches against India, behind Muralitharan) took the game into a fifth day.
Somewhat bizarrely the Trent Bridge authorities decided to charge £10 for admission on a day that could have lasted for one ball (actually it managed to last for 17, meaning that anyone who paid to get in did so a rate of just under 59p per delivery). At the MCG in 1982, when again the final day could have lasted one ball, but there was also an outside chance of a home victory (37 needed with one wicket left BUT at the crease with no 11 Jeff Thomson was a certain Allan Robert Border) the authorities there did not charge admission. On that earlier occasion those who took advantage of the freebie got 85 minutes of gut-wrenching tension and one of the closest finishes of all time (England won by three runs after Thomson nicked one from Botham that would have had the umpire spreading his arms had the no11 simply ignored it, Tavare palmed the ball upwards and Geoff Miller took the rebound. Here, with in excess of 200 required and nos9 and 11 together at the crease there could only be one result (the largest number of runs that a last wicket pair have ever knocked off to win a first-class match is 76 way back in the fifties). Thus England were well beaten and lead the series 2-1.
England’s top four is their major current problem area. At Trent Bridge those positions were filled by:
England’s all-time leading test run scorer but also someone who has not had a decent score since the Melbourne featherbed in December.
Someone who is clearly out of his depth at this level (Jennings)
One of the three best batsmen currently eligible for test cricket (Root – Kohli and kiwi Kane Williamson are the other two) to be found anywhere in the world.
A fine young batsman who at this stage of his career is not a test match number four.
The above situation, India managing a decent first innings total and the fact that Root for once had a poor game put a lot of pressure on the middle order, and Buttler and Stokes kin the second inninsg apart, they folded under it.
My suggested squad for the fourth test is: A N Cook, R J Burns (someone with a magnificent record as an opening batsman who is probably ready for elevation to the test match ranks), B A Stokes, J E Root*, O Pope (I did not say that he is not a test match batsman, and I believe that he can be, and should be persevered with, just not as high as number four, a position he never occupies even for his county), J C Buttler+, C Woakes, S Curran, A Rashid, S C J Broad, J M Anderson. If two spinners are warranted then Bess comes in for Broad, with Curran sharing the new ball with Anderson (the latter being a change I might make anyway, having Broad as third seamer). When recovered from his injury Bairstow comes in to the squad, probably replacing Stokes at no 3, just possibly coming as opener, bringing down the curtain on Cook’s illustrious career. Some of these suggestions, especially even considering dropping Cook might be seen in certain quarters as heretical.
I still just about make England favourites for the series (after all, they are still ahead), but they need to respond better to opponents making decent totals – this not the first time in recent years that they have folded in response to a respectable but not massive total – it happened twice against South Africa last year.
For you hardy souls who have made it to the end of this post, here are some of my photos: